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Ethiopian & African American Relations: The Case of Melaku Bayen & John Robinson

Melaku Bayen (left) and Colonel John C. Robinson (right) arrives in Chicago after heroically leading the Ethiopian Air Force against the invading Mussolini’s Italian forces. (Wikimedia commons)

Tadias Magazine
By Ayele Bekerie, PhD

Published: Friday, August 22nd, 2008

New York (TADIAS) – In 1935, African Americans of all classes, regions, genders, and beliefs expressed their opposition to and outrage over the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in various forms and various means. The invasion aroused African Americans – from intellectuals to common people in the street – more than any other Pan-African-oriented historical events or movements had. It fired the imagination of African Americans and brought to the surface the organic link to their ancestral land and peoples.

The time was indeed a turning point in the relations between Ethiopia and the African Diaspora. Harris calls 1935 a watershed in the history of African peoples. It was a year when the relations substantively shifted from symbolic to actual interactions. The massive expression of support for the Ethiopian cause by African Americans has also contributed, in my opinion, to the re-Africanization of Ethiopia. This article attempts to examine the history of the relations between Ethiopians and African Americans by focusing on brief biographies of two great leaders, one from Ethiopia and another one from African America, who made extraordinary contributions to these relations.

It is fair to argue that the Italo-Ethiopian War in the 1930s was instrumental in the rebirth of the Pan-African movement. The African Diaspora was mobilized in support of the Ethiopian cause during both the war and the subsequent Italian occupation of Ethiopia. Italy’s brutal attempt to wipe out the symbol of freedom and hope to the African world ultimately became a powerful catalyst in the struggle against colonialism and oppression. The Italo-Ethiopian War brought about an extraordinary unification of African people’s political awareness and heightened level of political consciousness. Africans, African Americans, Afro-Caribbean’s, and other Diaspora and continental Africans from every social stratum were in union in their support of Ethiopia, bringing the establishment of “global Pan-Africanism.” The brutal aggression against Ethiopia made it clear to African people in the United States that the Europeans’ intent and purpose was to conquer, dominate, and exploit all African people. Mussolini’s disregard and outright contempt for the sovereignty of Ethiopia angered and reawakened the African world.

Response went beyond mere condemnation by demanding self-determination and independence for all colonized African people throughout the world. For instance, the 1900-1945 Pan-African Congresses regularly issued statements that emphasized a sense of solidarity with Haiti, Ethiopia, and Liberia, thereby affirming the importance of defending the sovereignty and independence of African and Afro-Caribbean states. A new generation of militant Pan-Africanists emerged who called for decolonization, elimination of racial discrimination in the United States, African unity, and political empowerment of African people.

One of the most significant Pan-Africanist Conferences took place in 1945, immediately after the defeat of the Italians in Ethiopia and the end of World War II. This conference passed resolutions clearly demanding the end of colonization in Africa, and the question of self-determination emerged as the most important issue of the time. As Mazrui and Tidy put it: “To a considerable extent the 1945 Congress was a natural outgrowth of Pan-African activity in Britain since the outbreak of the Italo-Ethiopian War.”

Another of the most remarkable outcomes of the reawakening of the African Diaspora was the emergence of so many outstanding leaders, among them the Ethiopian Melaku E. Bayen and the African American John Robinson. Other outstanding leaders were Willis N. Huggins, Arnold Josiah Ford, and Mignon Innis Ford, who were active against the war in both the United States and Ethiopia. Mignon Ford, the founder of Princess Zenebe Work School, did not even leave Ethiopia during the war. The Fords and other followers of Marcus Garvey settled in Ethiopia in the 1920s. Mignon Ford raised her family among Ethiopians as Ethiopians. Her children, fluent speakers of Amharic, have been at home both in Ethiopia and the United States.

Melaku E. Bayen: Pan-Africanists in Thoughts & Practice

Melaku E. Bayen

Melaku E. Bayen, an Ethiopian, significantly contributed to the re-Africanization of Ethiopia. His noble dedication to the Pan-African cause and his activities in the United States helped to dispel the notion of “racial fog” that surrounded the Ethiopians. William R. Scott expounded on this: “Melaku Bayen was the first Ethiopian seriously and steadfastly to commit himself to achieving spiritual and physical bonds of fellowship between his people and peoples of African descent in the Americas. Melaku exerted himself to the fullest in attempting to bring about some kind of formal and continuing relationship designed to benefit both the Ethiopian and Afro-American.” To Scott, Bayen’s activities stand out as “the most prominent example of Ethiopian identification with African Americans and seriously challenges the multitude of claims which have been made now for a long time about the negative nature of Ethiopian attitudes toward African Americans.”

The issues raised by Scott and the exemplary Pan-Africanism of Melaku Bayen are useful in establishing respectful and meaningful relations between Ethiopia and the African Diaspora. They dedicated their entire lives in order to lay down the foundation for relations rooted in mutual understanding and historical facts, free of stereotypes and false perceptions. African American scholars, such as William Scott, Joseph E. Harris, and Leo Hansberry contributed immensely by documenting the thoughts and activities of Bayen, both in Ethiopia and the United States.

Melaku E. Bayen was raised and educated in the compound of Ras Mekonnen, then the Governor of Harar and the father of Emperor Haile Selassie. He was sent to India to study medicine in 1920 at the age of 21 with permission from Emperor Haile Selassie. Saddened by the untimely death of a young Ethiopian woman friend, who was also studying in India, he decided to leave India and continue his studies in the United States. In 1922, he enrolled at Marietta College, where he obtained his bachelor’s degree. He is believed to be the first Ethiopian to receive a college degree from the United Sates.

Melaku started his medical studies at Ohio State University in 1928, then, a year later, decided to transfer to Howard University in Washington D.C. in order to be close to Ethiopians who lived there. Melaku formally annulled his engagement to a daughter of the Ethiopian Foreign Minister and later married Dorothy Hadley, an African American and a great activist in her own right for the Ethiopian and pan-Africanist causes. Both in his married and intellectual life, Melaku wanted to create a new bond between Ethiopia and the African Diaspora.

Melaku obtained his medical degree from Howard University in 1936, at the height of the Italo-Ethiopian War. He immediately returned to Ethiopia with his wife and their son, Melaku E. Bayen, Jr. There, he joined the Ethiopian Red Cross and assisted the wounded on the Eastern Front. When the Italian Army captured Addis Ababa, Melaku’s family went to England and later to the United States to fully campaign for Ethiopia.

Schooled in Pan-African solidarity from a young age, Melaku co-founded the Ethiopian Research Council with the late Leo Hansberry in 1930, while he was student at Howard. According to Joseph Harris, the Council was regarded as the principal link between Ethiopians and African Americans in the early years of the Italo-Ethiopian conflict. The Council’s papers are housed at the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center at Howard University. At present, Professor Aster Mengesha of Arizona State University heads the Ethiopian Research Council. Leo Hansberry was the recipient of Emperor Haile Selassie’s Trust Foundation Prize in the 1960s.

Melaku founded and published the Voice of Ethiopia, the media organ of the Ethiopian World Federation and a pro-African newspaper that urged the “millions of the sons and daughters of Ethiopia, scattered throughout the world, to join hands with Ethiopians to save Ethiopia from the wolves of Europe.” Melaku founded the Ethiopian World Federation in 1937, and it eventually became one of the most important international organizations, with branches throughout the United States, the Caribbean, and Europe. The Caribbean branch helped to further solidify the ideological foundation for the Rasta Movement.

Melaku died at the age of forty from pneumonia he contracted while campaigning door-to-door for the Ethiopian cause in the United States. Melaku died in 1940, just a year before the defeat of the Italians in Ethiopia. His tireless and vigorous campaign, however, contributed to the demise of Italian colonial ambition in Ethiopia. Melaku strove to bring Ethiopia back into the African world. Melaku sewed the seeds for a “re-Africanization” of Ethiopia. Furthermore, Melaku was a model Pan-Africanist who brought the Ethiopian and African American people together through his exemplary work and his remarkable love and dedication to the African people.

Colonel John Robinson

Colonel John C. Robinson

Another heroic figure produced by the anti-war campaign was Colonel John Robinson. It is interesting to note that while Melaku conducted his campaign and died in the United States, the Chicago-born Robinson fought, lived, and died in Ethiopia.

When the Italo-Ethiopian War erupted, he left his family and went to Ethiopia to fight alongside the Ethiopians. According to William R. Scott, who conducted thorough research in documenting the life and accomplishments of John Robinson, wrote about Robinson’s ability to overcome racial barriers to go to an aviation school in the United States. In Ethiopia, Robinson served as a courier between Haile Selassie and his army commanders in the war zone. According to Scott, Robinson was the founder of the Ethiopian Air Force. He died in a plane crash in 1954.

Scott makes the following critical assessment of Robinson’s historical role in building ties between Ethiopia and the African Diaspora. I quote him in length: “Rarely, if ever, is there any mention of John Robinson’s role as Haile Selassie’s special courier during the Italo-Ethiopian conflict. He has been but all forgotten in Ethiopia as well as in Afro-America. Nonetheless, it is important to remember John Robinson, as one of the two Afro-Americans to serve in the Ethiopia campaign and the only one to be consistently exposed to the dangers of the war front.

Colonel Robinson stands out in Afro-America as perhaps the very first of the minute number of Black Americans to have ever taken up arms to defend the African homeland against the forces of imperialism.”

John Robinson set the standard in terms of goals and accomplishments that could be attained by Pan-Africanists. Through his activities, Robinson earned the trust and affection of both Ethiopians and African Americans. Like Melaku, he made concrete contributions to bring the two peoples together. He truly built a bridge of Pan African unity.

It is our hope that the youth of today learn from the examples set by Melaku and Robinson, and strive to build lasting and mutually beneficial relations between Ethiopia and the African Diaspora. The Ethiopian American community ought to empower itself by forging alliances with African Americans in places such as Washington D.C. We also urge the Ethiopian Government to, for now, at least name streets in Addis Ababa after Bayen and Robinson.

I would like to conclude with Melaku’s profound statement: “The philosophy of the Ethiopian World Federation is to instill in the minds of the Black people of the world that the word Black is not to be considered in any way dishonorable but rather an honor and dignity because of the past history of the race.”

—-
To further explore the history of Ethiopian & African American relations, consult the following texts:

• Joseph E. Harris’s African-American Reactions to War in Ethiopia 1936-1941(1994).

• William R. Scott’s The Sons of Sheba’s Race: African-Americans and the Italo- Ethiopian War, 1935-1941. (2005 reprint).

• Ayele Bekerie’s “African Americans and the Italo-Ethiopian War,” in Revisioning Italy: National Identity and Global Culture (1997).

• Melaku E. Bayen’s The March of Black Men (1939).

• David Talbot’s Contemporary Ethiopia (1952).

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The Case of Melaku E. Bayen and John Robinson: Ethiopia, America and the Pan-African Movement

Photo: Melaku E. Beyan

Tadias Magazine
By Ayele Bekerie, PhD

Updated: April 18th, 2007

New York (TADIAS) — Seventy two years ago, African Americans of all classes, regions, genders, and beliefs expressed their opposition to and outrage over the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in various forms and various means. The invasion aroused African Americans – from intellectuals to common people in the street – more than any other Pan-African-oriented historical events or movements had. It fired the imagination of African Americans and brought to the surface the organic link to their ancestral land and peoples.

1935 was indeed a turning point in the relations between Ethiopia and the African Diaspora. Harris calls 1935 a watershed in the history of African peoples. It was a year when the relations substantively shifted from symbolic to actual interactions. The massive expression of support for the Ethiopian cause by African Americans has also contributed, in my opinion, to the re-Africanization of Ethiopia. This article attempts to examine the history of the relations between Ethiopians and African Americans by focusing on brief biographies of two great leaders, one from Ethiopia and another one from African America, who made extraordinary contributions to these relations.

It is fair to argue that the Italo-Ethiopian War in the 1930s was instrumental in the rebirth of the Pan-African movement. The African Diaspora was mobilized in support of the Ethiopian cause during both the war and the subsequent Italian occupation of Ethiopia. Italy’s brutal attempt to wipe out the symbol of freedom and hope to the African world ultimately became a powerful catalyst in the struggle against colonialism and oppression. The Italo-Ethiopian War brought about an extraordinary unification of African people’s political awareness and heightened level of political consciousness. Africans, African Americans, Afro-Caribbean’s, and other Diaspora and continental Africans from every social stratum were in union in their support of Ethiopia, bringing the establishment of “global Pan-Africanism.” The brutal aggression against Ethiopia made it clear to African people in the United States that the Europeans’ intent and purpose was to conquer, dominate, and exploit all African people. Mussolini’s disregard and outright contempt for the sovereignty of Ethiopia angered and reawakened the African world.

Response went beyond mere condemnation by demanding self-determination and independence for all colonized African people throughout the world. For instance, the 1900-1945 Pan-African Congresses regularly issued statements that emphasized a sense of solidarity with Haiti, Ethiopia, and Liberia, thereby affirming the importance of defending the sovereignty and independence of African and Afro-Caribbean states. A new generation of militant Pan-Africanists emerged who called for decolonization, elimination of racial discrimination in the United States, African unity, and political empowerment of African people.

One of the most significant Pan-Africanist Conferences took place in 1945, immediately after the defeat of the Italians in Ethiopia and the end of World War II. This conference passed resolutions clearly demanding the end of colonization in Africa, and the question of self-determination emerged as the most important issue of the time. As Mazrui and Tidy put it: “To a considerable extent the 1945 Congress was a natural outgrowth of Pan-African activity in Britain since the outbreak of the Italo-Ethiopian War.”

Another of the most remarkable outcomes of the reawakening of the African Diaspora was the emergence of so many outstanding leaders, among them the Ethiopian Melaku E. Bayen and the African American John Robinson. Other outstanding leaders were Willis N. Huggins, Arnold Josiah Ford, and Mignon Innis Ford, who were active against the war in both the United States and Ethiopia. Mignon Ford, the founder of Princess Zenebe Work School, did not even leave Ethiopia during the war. The Fords and other followers of Marcus Garvey settled in Ethiopia in the 1920s. Mignon Ford raised her family among Ethiopians as Ethiopians. Her children, fluent speakers of Amharic, have been at home both in Ethiopia and the United States.

Pan-Africanists in Thoughts & Practice

Melaku E. Bayen, an Ethiopian, significantly contributed to the re-Africanization of Ethiopia. His noble dedication to the Pan-African cause and his activities in the United States helped to dispel the notion of “racial fog” that surrounded the Ethiopians. William R. Scott expounded on this: “Melaku Bayen was the first Ethiopian seriously and steadfastly to commit himself to achieving spiritual and physical bonds of fellowship between his people and peoples of African descent in the Americas. Melaku exerted himself to the fullest in attempting to bring about some kind of formal and continuing relationship designed to benefit both the Ethiopian and Afro-American.” To Scott, Bayen’s activities stand out as “the most prominent example of Ethiopian identification with African Americans and seriously challenges the multitude of claims which have been made now for a long time about the negative nature of Ethiopian attitudes toward African Americans.”

The issues raised by Scott and the exemplary Pan-Africanism of Melaku Bayen are useful in establishing respectful and meaningful relations between Ethiopia and the African Diaspora. They dedicated their entire lives in order to lay down the foundation for relations rooted in mutual understanding and historical facts, free of stereotypes and false perceptions. African American scholars, such as William Scott, Joseph E. Harris, and Leo Hansberry contributed immensely by documenting the thoughts and activities of Bayen, both in Ethiopia and the United States.

Melaku E. Bayen was raised and educated in the compound of Ras Mekonnen, then the Governor of Harar and the father of Emperor Haile Selassie. He was sent to India to study medicine in 1920 at the age of 21 with permission from Emperor Haile Selassie. Saddened by the untimely death of a young Ethiopian woman friend, who was also studying in India, he decided to leave India and continue his studies in the United States. In 1922, he enrolled at Marietta College, where he obtained his bachelor’s degree. He is believed to be the first Ethiopian to receive a college degree from the United Sates.

Melaku started his medical studies at Ohio State University in 1928, then, a year later, decided to transfer to Howard University in Washington D.C. in order to be close to Ethiopians who lived there. Melaku formally annulled his engagement to a daughter of the Ethiopian Foreign Minister and later married Dorothy Hadley, an African American and a great activist in her own right for the Ethiopian and pan-Africanist causes. Both in his married and intellectual life, Melaku wanted to create a new bond between Ethiopia and the African Diaspora.

Melaku obtained his medical degree from Howard University in 1936, at the height of the Italo-Ethiopian War. He immediately returned to Ethiopia with his wife and their son, Melaku E. Bayen, Jr. There, he joined the Ethiopian Red Cross and assisted the wounded on the Eastern Front. When the Italian Army captured Addis Ababa, Melaku’s family went to England and later to the United States to fully campaign for Ethiopia.

Schooled in Pan-African solidarity from a young age, Melaku co-founded the Ethiopian Research Council with the late Leo Hansberry in 1930, while he was student at Howard. According to Joseph Harris, the Council was regarded as the principal link between Ethiopians and African Americans in the early years of the Italo-Ethiopian conflict. The Council’s papers are housed at the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center at Howard University. At present, Professor Aster Mengesha of Arizona State University heads the Ethiopian Research Council. Leo Hansberry was the recipient of Emperor Haile Selassie’s Trust Foundation Prize in the 1960s.

Melaku founded and published the Voice of Ethiopia, the media organ of the Ethiopian World Federation and a pro-African newspaper that urged the “millions of the sons and daughters of Ethiopia, scattered throughout the world, to join hands with Ethiopians to save Ethiopia from the wolves of Europe.” Melaku founded the Ethiopian World Federation in 1937, and it eventually became one of the most important international organizations, with branches throughout the United States, the Caribbean, and Europe. The Caribbean branch helped to further solidify the ideological foundation for the Rasta Movement.

Melaku died at the age of forty from pneumonia he contracted while campaigning door-to-door for the Ethiopian cause in the United States. Melaku died in 1940, just a year before the defeat of the Italians in Ethiopia. His tireless and vigorous campaign, however, contributed to the demise of Italian colonial ambition in Ethiopia. Melaku strove to bring Ethiopia back into the African world. Melaku sewed the seeds for a “re-Africanization” of Ethiopia. Furthermore, Melaku was a model Pan-Africanist who brought the Ethiopian and African American people together through his exemplary work and his remarkable love and dedication to the African people.

Another heroic figure produced by the anti-war campaign was Colonel John Robinson. It is interesting to note that while Melaku conducted his campaign and died in the United States, the Chicago-born Robinson fought, lived, and died in Ethiopia.

robinson.jpg
Above: John Robinson

When the Italo-Ethiopian War erupted, he left his family and went to Ethiopia to fight alongside the Ethiopians. According to William R. Scott, who conducted thorough research in documenting the life and accomplishments of John Robinson, wrote about Robinson’s ability to overcome racial barriers to go to an aviation school in the United States. In Ethiopia, Robinson served as a courier between Haile Selassie and his army commanders in the war zone. According to Scott, Robinson was the founder of the Ethiopian Air Force. He died in a plane crash in 1954.

Scott makes the following critical assessment of Robinson’s historical role in building ties between Ethiopia and the African Diaspora. I quote him in length: “Rarely, if ever, is there any mention of John Robinson’s role as Haile Selassie’s special courier during the Italo-Ethiopian conflict. He has been but all forgotten in Ethiopia as well as in Afro-America. [Ambassodor Brazeal mentioned his name at the planting of a tree to honor the African Diaspora in Addis Ababa recently.] Nonetheless, it is important to remember John Robinson, as one of the two Afro-Americans to serve in the Ethiopia campaign and the only one to be consistently exposed to the dangers of the war front.

Colonel Robinson stands out in Afro-America as perhaps the very first of the minute number of Black Americans to have ever taken up arms to defend the African homeland against the forces of imperialism.”

John Robinson set the standard in terms of goals and accomplishments that could be attained by Pan-Africanists. Through his activities, Robinson earned the trust and affection of both Ethiopians and African Americans. Like Melaku, he made concrete contributions to bring the two peoples together. He truly built a bridge of Pan African unity.

It is our hope that the youth of today learn from the examples set by Melaku and Robinson, and strive to build lasting and mutually beneficial relations between Ethiopia and the African Diaspora. As we celebrate Black History Month in the United States, let us recommit ourselves to Pan-African principles and practices with the sole purpose of empowering African people. The Ethiopian American community ought to empower itself by forging alliances with African Americans in places such as Washington D.C. We also urge the Ethiopian Government to, for now, at least name streets in Addis Ababa after Bayen and Robinson.

I would like to conclude with Melaku’s profound statement: “The philosophy of the Ethiopian World Federation is to instill in the minds of the Black people of the world that the word Black is not to be considered in any way dishonorable but rather an honor and dignity because of the past history of the race.”

—-
About the Author:
Ayele Bekerie was born in Ethiopia, and earned his Ph.D. in African American Studies at Temple University in 1994. He has written and published in scholarly journals, such as , ANKH: Journal of Egyptology and African Civilizations, Journal of Black Studies, The International Journal of Africana Studies, and Imhotep. He is an Assistant Professor at the Africana Studies and Research Center of Cornell University. He is a regular contributor to Tadias Magazine.

To further explore the history of Ethiopian & African American relations, consult the following texts:

• Joseph E. Harris’s African-American Reactions to War in Ethiopia 1936-1941(1994).

• William R. Scott’s The Sons of Sheba’s Race: African-Americans and the Italo- Ethiopian War, 1935-1941. (2005 reprint).

• Ayele Bekerie’s “African Americans and the Italo-Ethiopian War,” in Revisioning Italy: National Identity and Global Culture (1997).

• Melaku E. Bayen’s The March of Black Men (1939).

• David Talbot’s Contemporary Ethiopia (1952).

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook

SEED Honors Ethiopia’s Universal Impact on the Pan-African World

Ethiopia has never been colonized & has been an inspiration for the Pan-African world. (Photos: Emperor Tewodros, Emperor Yohannes IV, Emperor Haile Selassie, Empress Zewditu and Emperor Menelik/ Graphic Design by Heli Amare)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

January 18th, 2018

New York (TADIAS) — Ethiopia is the only country in Africa that doesn’t have “Independence Day” on its calendar because it has never been colonized.

The universal impact of Ethiopia’s ancient and independent history on the Pan-African world will be the subject of an upcoming event in Washington, D.C. hosted by The Society of Ethiopians Established in Diaspora (SEED).

SEED announced that their 26th Annual Awards Dinner on Sunday, May 27, 2018 will posthumously honor the past five Emperors of Ethiopia including Emperor Tewodros II (1818 – 1868), Emperor Yohannes IV (1837 – 1889), Emperor Menelik II (1844 – 1913), Empress Zewditu (1876 – 1930), and Emperor Haile Selassie I (1892 – 1975).

The press release also notes “a special feature program for the last emperor, H.I.M. Haile Selassie I, in an effort to uplift and recognize Ethiopia’s universal and unique impact in the Pan African movement, black freedom struggles around the world, the civil rights movement in the United States, and in Ethiopia.”

“Ethiopian history is so rich and its role in the black liberation movement and around the world goes without saying,” said SEED Chairman, Dr. Melaku Lakew. “Nelson Mandela, Rep. Ron Dellums, and others have spoken about Ethiopia’s impact, but it is rare that we, as Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia, get the opportunity to create a platform to recognize not only the impact they made in Ethiopia, but the influence they had on the rest of the world as well.”


If You Go:
The event takes place on May 27, 2018 at College Park Marriott Hotel Conference Center 3501 University Boulevard E. Hyattsville, Maryland. More info at www.ethioseed.org.

Related:
African American and Ethiopian Relations
The Case of Melaku E. Bayen and John Robinson: Ethiopia, U.S. and the Pan-African Movement

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

Photos: Col. John Robinson Bust Unveiled in Ethiopia

The unveiling of a bust and mural in Addis Ababa for Col. John Robinson, May 5th, 2015. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — Last week, on Ethiopian Patriots Day, the unveiling of a bust in commemoration of Col. John Robinson was held at Gulele Cemetery in Addis Ababa in the presence of Ethiopian officials and foreign embassy dignitaries.

Robinson, a.k.a. The Brown Condor, was an African American pilot who fought alongside Ethiopians during the war against Fascist Italy and is also credited for training commercial pilots and laying the groundwork for what would eventually become Ethiopian Airlines.

The ceremony was organized by the Ethiopian Patriots Association in collaboration with the International Council for the Commemoration of Col John Robinson.

Below are photos from the event:

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Related:
African American Pilot Col. John Robinson (Brown Condor) to be Honored in Ethiopia
Ethiopian & African American Relations: The Case of Melaku Bayen & John Robinson
The Man Called Brown Condor: The Forgotten History of an African American Fighter Pilot

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African American Pilot Col. John Robinson (Brown Condor) to be Honored in Ethiopia

Col. John C. Robinson. (Courtesy of International Council for the Commemoration of Col. John C. Robinson)

Tadias Magazine
By Taias Staff

Published: Friday, May 1st, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — Ethiopia will host the first annual national commemoration of American pilot Col. John C. Robinson, who was nicknamed “The Brown Condor” for his heroic commanding of the Ethiopian Air Force during the war against Fascist Italy. Robinson will be honored on May 5, 2015 on Ethiopian Patriots’ Day at Victory Square in Addis Ababa.

“Col. John C. Robinson was an inspiring African American aviation pioneer and a brave Ethiopian war hero,” said the International Council for the Commemoration of Col. John C. Robinson in a press release. “He was instrumental in the formation of what was to become the Tuskegee Airmen of WWII fame, led Ethiopian Air Forces against Italian aggression, and trained numerous military and civilian pilots for Ethiopia. Among his many accomplishments, he established the first African American owned airline and pilot school in Chicago, USA, and founded the American Institute School in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. After sacrificing his life for Ethiopia, Col. Robinson is finally receiving his due recognition.” Robinson died in a plane crash in Ethiopia in 1954. He is buried at Gullele cemetery in Addis Ababa.

Ethiopian historian Ayele Bekerie writes: “When the Italo-Ethiopian War erupted, [Robinson] left his family and went to Ethiopia to fight alongside the Ethiopians. According to William R. Scott, who conducted thorough research in documenting the life and accomplishments of John Robinson, wrote about Robinson’s ability to overcome racial barriers to go to an aviation school in the United States. In Ethiopia, Robinson served as a courier between Haile Selassie and his army commanders in the war zone.”

Expected guests at the event include Mulatu Teshome, President of Ethiopia, and former President of Ethiopia Girma W/Giorgis, as well as Abune Mathias who will provide the benediction.

The Press release added: International guest and official representatives of the embassies as well as thousands of Ethiopians will witness the unveiling of a bust, in the likeness of this great American hero, who dedicated his life to defending Ethiopia during the Ethio-Italian War of 1935, and preparing it to achieve the commercial status it receives today in the airline industry. Other activities will take place, including the unveiling of a mural, by Ethiopian artist Ato Fasil Dawit, depicting the life of Col. Robinson that is planned to be displayed at the Bole International Airport. Throughout the week of May 3rd, several lunches and dinners are planned with members of the Council, US and other embassy personnel and guests. Future plans include official recognition from the US government for his lifetime achievements to American aviation.

Below is a text of the remarks made by U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia Patricia M. Haslach at the Dedication of a Reading Garden in Honor of John Robinson on February 19, 2015 at the U.S. Embassy, Addis Ababa.

As Prepared for Delivery on February 19, 2015 at the U.S. Embassy, Addis Ababa

Your Excellency Girma Wolde Giorgis,

Former President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia,

Mr. Henok Tefera, Vice President for Strategic Communications of Ethiopian Airlines

Invited guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is with great pleasure that the Embassy of the United States of America recognizes the contributions of U.S. citizen John Charles Robinson who came to the aid of Ethiopia during its time of need in the struggle against fascist occupation in the 1930’s, and who again returned to a peaceful and independent Ethiopia following World War II to help establish a professional Ethiopian Air Force and Ethiopian Airlines.

John Charles Robinson was born in 1903 in Florida and grew up in a very segregated South. In 1910, when John was 7, he saw his first aircraft, a float plane that taxied to the beach. John Robinson knew that he wanted one day to fly an airplane, and he set out to overcome the obstacle of segregation. He did this by learning to excel at school and later at work, to never let disappointments overcome his determination and to wear his successes with modesty.

He enrolled in the Tuskegee Institute and learned to become an automobile mechanic. He decided there would be better job opportunities in the North, so he moved to Detroit where he earned a reputation as an exceptionally good mechanic. Moving to Chicago, he wanted to enroll in the Curtiss-Wright Aviation School, but black students were not welcome. Although he had a full-time job in an auto garage, he signed on as a nighttime janitor in a Curtiss-Wright classroom, absorbing the instructor’s ground-school lectures. The instructor realized how determined John was and persuaded the school to let him enroll.

After graduation, John went on to form a small flying school, encouraging young black men to enroll. This fact came to the attention of Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia, who was working to modernize his country. He invited Robinson to come to Ethiopia to head his Air Force. Robinson came to Ethiopia and built a cadre of black pilots and ground crews and was named the Commander of the Imperial Ethiopian Air Force.

John Robinson joined Ethiopia in its fight against fascist Italy, but, ultimately, the Italians conquered Ethiopia, if only temporarily. Haile Selassie escaped to England and John Robinson to America. Back home, his aviation school thrived. Tuskegee, to which he had proposed an aircraft school in the 1930s, finally had one and turned out hundreds of who became the Tuskegee Airmen, who gained fame in World War II. After the war, Haile Selassie invited Robinson back to Ethiopia, first to rebuild his Air Force, then to create Ethiopian Airlines. As with everything else, this remarkable man performed these jobs with determination and thoroughness.

In the history of U.S.-Ethiopian relations, beginning with the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1903, there have been many individuals from both our countries who have brought our nations together in common endeavors for our mutual benefit. John Robinson’s story stands out as a remarkable example of the individual bonds between the peoples of our two countries.

Today, we honor the spirit of this bond between the Ethiopian and American peoples by dedicating a Reading Garden in memory of Col. John Robinson who gave his life for Ethiopia 60 years ago. The establishment of this reading garden at the U.S. Embassy is part of our month long celebration of Black History month, and will commemorate the extraordinary contributions of Col. Robinson, who lost his life in the service to the Ethiopia on March 26, 1954.

We are indebted to and appreciate the contributions of John C. Robinson, and commit to honoring his name and memory so that future generations may aspire to follow in his footsteps in strengthening the partnership between our two nations.


Related:
Ethiopian & African American Relations: The Case of Melaku Bayen & John Robinson
The Man Called Brown Condor: The Forgotten History of an African American Fighter Pilot

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

New York Times Highlights Abyssinian Fund

Above: The Rev. Nicholas S. Richards, head of the Abyssinian
Fund, an NGO that is financing the training of farmers working
to produce higher-quality products. Photo: The New York Times

Harlem Helps Raise Coffee in Ethiopia
Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New York (Tadias) – The New York Times highlights one of the latest projects by members of Harlem’s legendary Abyssinian Baptist Church: the Abyssinian Fund, the only nongovernmental organization by an African-American church operating in Ethiopia.

The NGO was officially launched last December at an event held at the elegant Harlem Stage, which was attended by a diverse group of people, including local politicians, business leaders, and diplomats.

According to NYT, the young organization has already hit the ground running. “It will soon be joining forces with a co-op of 700 coffee farmers in the ancient Ethiopian city of Harrar, with a mission to improve the quality of the farmers’ lives by helping them improve the quality of their coffee beans,” the newspaper reports. “The Abyssinian Fund will pay for specialized training and equipment to help the co-op’s farmers produce a higher-quality product so they can be more competitive on the international coffee market. Once their income has increased, part of what they make will then be set aside in a fund to support local development projects, like much-needed roads, schools or clinics.”

According Reverend Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III, the church’s current pastor – who made a brief introductory remark at the fund’s launch VIP reception in December 2009 – the project was born out of the group’s historic trip to Ethiopia three years ago. Reverend Butts, who led over 150 delegates to Ethiopia as part of the church’s bicentennial celebration and in honor of the Ethiopian Millennium, told the crowd that the journey rekindled a long but dormant relationship that was last sealed in 1954 with an exquisite Ethiopian cross, a gift from the late Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie to African-Americans as a symbol of love and gratitude for their support and friendship during Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia. The cross has since become the official symbol of the church.

“The Abyssinian Fund is inspired by the pilgrimage taken by The Abyssinian Baptist Church to Ethiopia in 2007, “said Rev. Richards in an email after last year’s event. “We saw the biggest enemy Ethiopia faces is poverty, so on our arrival back in the USA, we dedicated our energy and love for Ethiopia to establish an organization dedicated to creating and supporting sustainable development.”

“The mission of the Abyssinian Fund is to reduce poverty in Ethiopia by increasing the capacity of farming cooperatives and by developing programs for the wider community, which will lead to sustainable improvements in health care, education and access to clean water, Rev. Richards said. “I strongly believe in the success of our goal to develop Ethiopia, one community at a time.”

According to the church’s official history, in 1808, after refusing to participate in segregated worship services in lower Manhattan, a group of free African Americans and Ethiopian sea merchants formed their own church on Worth Street, naming it the Abyssinian Baptist Church in honor of Abyssinia, the former name of Ethiopia.

Related from Tadias Magazine:
Harlem’s Legendary Church Launches Abyssinian Fund

Slideshow: See photos from the launch event in harlem:

Related Tadias Magazine stories:
African American & Ethiopian Relations (Tadias)
haile_powel.jpg

The Case of Melaku E. Bayen & John Robinson (Tadias)
melakuimage1.jpg

Harlem’s Legendary Church Launches Abyssinian Fund

Board members of the newly formed Abyssinian Fund and president of the organization, Rev. Nicholas S. Richards, (far left), at a reception held on Friday, December 4th, 2009 at the Harlem Stage. (Tadias photo).

Tadias Magazine
Events News

Published: Tuesday, December 8, 2009

New York (Tadias) – This past weekend we attended the launching of Abyssinian Fund, an NGO dedicated to fighting poverty in Ethiopia. The event was organized in Harlem by members of the legendary Abyssinian Baptist Church and was held on Friday, December 4th, 2009 at the elegant Harlem Stage.

The reception attracted local politicians, business leaders, and diplomats, including representatives of Ethiopia’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations.

The evening also showcased an exhibition of recent images of Ethiopia by Photojournalist Robert E. Eilets. The photographs were auctioned and helped to raise $2,500 for the new organization.

“This was a terrific launch reception,” said Rev. Nicholas S. Richards, President of the Abyssinian Fund. “To see 240 persons, including political dignitaries, the business community and local residents concerned about reducing poverty in Ethiopia through economic development was fantastic.”

According Reverend Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III, the church’s current pastor – who made a brief introductory remark at the VIP reception – the project was born out of the group’s historic trip to Ethiopia two years ago. The pastor, who led over 150 delegates to Ethiopia as part of the church’s bicentennial celebration and in honor of the Ethiopian Millennium, told the crowed that the journey rekindled a long but dormant relationship that was last sealed in 1954 with an exquisite Ethiopian cross, a gift from the late Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie to the people of Harlem as a symbol of love and gratitude for their support and friendship during Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia. The cross has since become the official symbol of the church.

“The Abyssinian Fund is inspired by the pilgrimage taken by The Abyssinian Baptist Church to Ethiopia in 2007, “said Rev. Richards in an email after the event. “We saw the biggest enemy Ethiopia faces is poverty, so on our arrival back in the USA, we dedicated our energy and love for Ethiopia to establish an organization dedicated to creating and supporting sustainable development.”

The organization hopes to raise one million dollars in the next five years. “ The mission of the Abyssinian Fund is to reduce poverty in Ethiopia by increasing the capacity of farming cooperatives and by developing programs for the wider community, which will lead to sustainable improvements in health care, education and access to clean water, Rev. Richards said. “I strongly believe in the success of our goal to develop Ethiopia, one community at a time.”

According to the church’s official history, in 1808, after refusing to participate in segregated worship services in lower Manhattan, a group of free African Americans and Ethiopian sea merchants formed their own church on Worth Street, naming it the Abyssinian Baptist Church in honor of Abyssinia, the former name of Ethiopia.

Slideshow: See photos from the event:

Related Tadias Magazine stories:
African American & Ethiopian Relations (Tadias)
haile_powel.jpg

The Case of Melaku E. Bayen & John Robinson (Tadias)
melakuimage1.jpg

Ethiopia & Black America: The Forgotten Story of Melaku & Robinson

Ethiopian & African American Relations
The Case of Melaku E. Bayen and John Robinson

By Ayele Bekerie

Updated: Sunday, August 24, 2008

New York (Tadias) – In 1935, African Americans of all classes, regions, genders, and beliefs expressed their opposition to and outrage over the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in various forms and various means. The invasion aroused African Americans – from intellectuals to common people in the street – more than any other Pan-African-oriented historical events or movements had. It fired the imagination of African Americans and brought to the surface the organic link to their ancestral land and peoples.

The time was indeed a turning point in the relations between Ethiopia and the African Diaspora. Harris calls 1935 a watershed in the history of African peoples. It was a year when the relations substantively shifted from symbolic to actual interactions. The massive expression of support for the Ethiopian cause by African Americans has also contributed, in my opinion, to the re-Africanization of Ethiopia. This article attempts to examine the history of the relations between Ethiopians and African Americans by focusing on brief biographies of two great leaders, one from Ethiopia and another one from African America, who made extraordinary contributions to these relations.

It is fair to argue that the Italo-Ethiopian War in the 1930s was instrumental in the rebirth of the Pan-African movement. The African Diaspora was mobilized in support of the Ethiopian cause during both the war and the subsequent Italian occupation of Ethiopia. Italy’s brutal attempt to wipe out the symbol of freedom and hope to the African world ultimately became a powerful catalyst in the struggle against colonialism and oppression. The Italo-Ethiopian War brought about an extraordinary unification of African people’s political awareness and heightened level of political consciousness. Africans, African Americans, Afro-Caribbean’s, and other Diaspora and continental Africans from every social stratum were in union in their support of Ethiopia, bringing the establishment of “global Pan-Africanism.” The brutal aggression against Ethiopia made it clear to African people in the United States that the Europeans’ intent and purpose was to conquer, dominate, and exploit all African people. Mussolini’s disregard and outright contempt for the sovereignty of Ethiopia angered and reawakened the African world.

Response went beyond mere condemnation by demanding self-determination and independence for all colonized African people throughout the world. For instance, the 1900-1945 Pan-African Congresses regularly issued statements that emphasized a sense of solidarity with Haiti, Ethiopia, and Liberia, thereby affirming the importance of defending the sovereignty and independence of African and Afro-Caribbean states. A new generation of militant Pan-Africanists emerged who called for decolonization, elimination of racial discrimination in the United States, African unity, and political empowerment of African people.

One of the most significant Pan-Africanist Conferences took place in 1945, immediately after the defeat of the Italians in Ethiopia and the end of World War II. This conference passed resolutions clearly demanding the end of colonization in Africa, and the question of self-determination emerged as the most important issue of the time. As Mazrui and Tidy put it: “To a considerable extent the 1945 Congress was a natural outgrowth of Pan-African activity in Britain since the outbreak of the Italo-Ethiopian War.”

Another of the most remarkable outcomes of the reawakening of the African Diaspora was the emergence of so many outstanding leaders, among them the Ethiopian Melaku E. Bayen and the African American John Robinson. Other outstanding leaders were Willis N. Huggins, Arnold Josiah Ford, and Mignon Innis Ford, who were active against the war in both the United States and Ethiopia. Mignon Ford, the founder of Princess Zenebe Work School, did not even leave Ethiopia during the war. The Fords and other followers of Marcus Garvey settled in Ethiopia in the 1920s. Mignon Ford raised her family among Ethiopians as Ethiopians. Her children, fluent speakers of Amharic, have been at home both in Ethiopia and the United States.

Melaku E. Bayen: Pan-Africanists in Thoughts & Practice
beyan12.jpg
Melaku E. Bayen

Melaku E. Bayen, an Ethiopian, significantly contributed to the re-Africanization of Ethiopia. His noble dedication to the Pan-African cause and his activities in the United States helped to dispel the notion of “racial fog” that surrounded the Ethiopians. William R. Scott expounded on this: “Melaku Bayen was the first Ethiopian seriously and steadfastly to commit himself to achieving spiritual and physical bonds of fellowship between his people and peoples of African descent in the Americas. Melaku exerted himself to the fullest in attempting to bring about some kind of formal and continuing relationship designed to benefit both the Ethiopian and Afro-American.” To Scott, Bayen’s activities stand out as “the most prominent example of Ethiopian identification with African Americans and seriously challenges the multitude of claims which have been made now for a long time about the negative nature of Ethiopian attitudes toward African Americans.”

The issues raised by Scott and the exemplary Pan-Africanism of Melaku Bayen are useful in establishing respectful and meaningful relations between Ethiopia and the African Diaspora. They dedicated their entire lives in order to lay down the foundation for relations rooted in mutual understanding and historical facts, free of stereotypes and false perceptions. African American scholars, such as William Scott, Joseph E. Harris, and Leo Hansberry contributed immensely by documenting the thoughts and activities of Bayen, both in Ethiopia and the United States.

Melaku E. Bayen was raised and educated in the compound of Ras Mekonnen, then the Governor of Harar and the father of Emperor Haile Selassie. He was sent to India to study medicine in 1920 at the age of 21 with permission from Emperor Haile Selassie. Saddened by the untimely death of a young Ethiopian woman friend, who was also studying in India, he decided to leave India and continue his studies in the United States. In 1922, he enrolled at Marietta College, where he obtained his bachelor’s degree. He is believed to be the first Ethiopian to receive a college degree from the United Sates.

Melaku started his medical studies at Ohio State University in 1928, then, a year later, decided to transfer to Howard University in Washington D.C. in order to be close to Ethiopians who lived there. Melaku formally annulled his engagement to a daughter of the Ethiopian Foreign Minister and later married Dorothy Hadley, an African American and a great activist in her own right for the Ethiopian and pan-Africanist causes. Both in his married and intellectual life, Melaku wanted to create a new bond between Ethiopia and the African Diaspora.

Melaku obtained his medical degree from Howard University in 1936, at the height of the Italo-Ethiopian War. He immediately returned to Ethiopia with his wife and their son, Melaku E. Bayen, Jr. There, he joined the Ethiopian Red Cross and assisted the wounded on the Eastern Front. When the Italian Army captured Addis Ababa, Melaku’s family went to England and later to the United States to fully campaign for Ethiopia.

Schooled in Pan-African solidarity from a young age, Melaku co-founded the Ethiopian Research Council with the late Leo Hansberry in 1930, while he was student at Howard. According to Joseph Harris, the Council was regarded as the principal link between Ethiopians and African Americans in the early years of the Italo-Ethiopian conflict. The Council’s papers are housed at the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center at Howard University. At present, Professor Aster Mengesha of Arizona State University heads the Ethiopian Research Council. Leo Hansberry was the recipient of Emperor Haile Selassie’s Trust Foundation Prize in the 1960s.

Melaku founded and published the Voice of Ethiopia, the media organ of the Ethiopian World Federation and a pro-African newspaper that urged the “millions of the sons and daughters of Ethiopia, scattered throughout the world, to join hands with Ethiopians to save Ethiopia from the wolves of Europe.” Melaku founded the Ethiopian World Federation in 1937, and it eventually became one of the most important international organizations, with branches throughout the United States, the Caribbean, and Europe. The Caribbean branch helped to further solidify the ideological foundation for the Rasta Movement.

Melaku died at the age of forty from pneumonia he contracted while campaigning door-to-door for the Ethiopian cause in the United States. Melaku died in 1940, just a year before the defeat of the Italians in Ethiopia. His tireless and vigorous campaign, however, contributed to the demise of Italian colonial ambition in Ethiopia. Melaku strove to bring Ethiopia back into the African world. Melaku sewed the seeds for a “re-Africanization” of Ethiopia. Furthermore, Melaku was a model Pan-Africanist who brought the Ethiopian and African American people together through his exemplary work and his remarkable love and dedication to the African people.

Colonel John Robinson
colonerobinson1_inside1.jpg
Colonel John C. Robinson arrives in Chicago after heroically
leading the Ethiopian Air Force against the invading Mussolini’s
Italian forces.
(Ethiopiancrown.org)

Another heroic figure produced by the anti-war campaign was Colonel John Robinson. It is interesting to note that while Melaku conducted his campaign and died in the United States, the Chicago-born Robinson fought, lived, and died in Ethiopia.

When the Italo-Ethiopian War erupted, he left his family and went to Ethiopia to fight alongside the Ethiopians. According to William R. Scott, who conducted thorough research in documenting the life and accomplishments of John Robinson, wrote about Robinson’s ability to overcome racial barriers to go to an aviation school in the United States. In Ethiopia, Robinson served as a courier between Haile Selassie and his army commanders in the war zone. According to Scott, Robinson was the founder of the Ethiopian Air Force. He died in a plane crash in 1954.

Scott makes the following critical assessment of Robinson’s historical role in building ties between Ethiopia and the African Diaspora. I quote him in length: “Rarely, if ever, is there any mention of John Robinson’s role as Haile Selassie’s special courier during the Italo-Ethiopian conflict. He has been but all forgotten in Ethiopia as well as in Afro-America. [Former Ambassodor Brazeal mentioned his name at the planting of a tree to honor the African Diaspora in Addis Ababa.] Nonetheless, it is important to remember John Robinson, as one of the two Afro-Americans to serve in the Ethiopia campaign and the only one to be consistently exposed to the dangers of the war front.

Colonel Robinson stands out in Afro-America as perhaps the very first of the minute number of Black Americans to have ever taken up arms to defend the African homeland against the forces of imperialism.”

John Robinson set the standard in terms of goals and accomplishments that could be attained by Pan-Africanists. Through his activities, Robinson earned the trust and affection of both Ethiopians and African Americans. Like Melaku, he made concrete contributions to bring the two peoples together. He truly built a bridge of Pan African unity.

It is our hope that the youth of today learn from the examples set by Melaku and Robinson, and strive to build lasting and mutually beneficial relations between Ethiopia and the African Diaspora. The Ethiopian American community ought to empower itself by forging alliances with African Americans in places such as Washington D.C. We also urge the Ethiopian Government to, for now, at least name streets in Addis Ababa after Bayen and Robinson.

I would like to conclude with Melaku’s profound statement: “The philosophy of the Ethiopian World Federation is to instill in the minds of the Black people of the world that the word Black is not to be considered in any way dishonorable but rather an honor and dignity because of the past history of the race.”
—-

About the Author:
ayele_author.jpg
Ayele Bekerie was born in Ethiopia, and earned his Ph.D. in African American Studies at Temple University in 1994. He has written and published in scholarly journals, such as , ANKH: Journal of Egyptology and African Civilizations, Journal of Black Studies, The International Journal of Africana Studies, and Imhotep. He is an Assistant Professor at the Africana Studies and Research Center of Cornell University. He is a regular contributor to Tadias Magazine.

To further explore the history of Ethiopian & African American relations, consult the following texts:

• Joseph E. Harris’s African-American Reactions to War in Ethiopia 1936-1941(1994).

• William R. Scott’s The Sons of Sheba’s Race: African-Americans and the Italo- Ethiopian War, 1935-1941. (2005 reprint).

• Ayele Bekerie’s “African Americans and the Italo-Ethiopian War,” in Revisioning Italy: National Identity and Global Culture (1997).

• Melaku E. Bayen’s The March of Black Men (1939).

• David Talbot’s Contemporary Ethiopia (1952).



A Visitor from Ethiopia Discovers Harlem in 1931

By Jody Benjamin

Updated: Saturday, August 23, 2008

New York (Tadias) – ON A WINTER NIGHT IN 1931, as many Depression-era New Yorkers prepared for a lean Chanukah or Christmas, a room inside a residential building at 29 W. 131st Street, was filled with an expectant crowd.

Those gathered in the modest sanctuary of Harlem’s Commandment Keepers congregation were anticipating a special visitor from Ethiopia.

Just before 9 p.m., Taamrat Emmanuel walked into the room. A thin, bearded man in his early 40s, with eyes like deep wells, Emmanuel was a European-educated Beta Israel originally from Jenda, near Gondar Ethiopia. He had traveled far and wide advocating on behalf of his ethnic minority, which had maintained their Judaic beliefs for centuries in remote mountain areas. Now he found himself in the most important black cultural center, and the largest city, of the United States. The African-American and African-Caribbean congregation, led by rabbi Wentworth A Matthew, rose to its feet. A cornetist played the solemn anthem: Ethiopia, thou Land of Our Fathers. Its lyrics included lines like:

Ethiopia, thou land of our fathers
Thou land where the gods loved to be
As storm cloud at night suddenly gathers
Our armies come rushing to thee!

Although the song may have been unfamiliar to Emmanuel, it would have had special resonance for those who had come to see him. It was the anthem of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association and was sung at the start of each meeting. Many of Matthew’s congregation had also been members of the UNIA and held fast to its principles. Also, the song was written by Arnold Ford, a rabbi and musician well-known to the Hebrews, and Benjamin E. Burrell. Ford was a mentor to Matthew, who in turn would go on to be an eminent leader and institution-builder among black Hebrews, descendants of American and Caribbean slaves who believed Judaism to be their true faith.

cks_harlemnew.JPG
Above: Harlem’s Commandment Keepers congregation building.
Photo/Tadias

Emmanuel was escorted to a seat as Matthew extended him the warmest of fraternal greetings.

It may be difficult to imagine, from the perspective of the 21st century internet age, the magnitude of that moment to those present. In today’s multi-culti United States, black people from scattered parts of the world tend to wear their national or ethnic identities as shields, like protective armor designed to keep away “strangers” while scuffling toward the ever-elusive goal of the “American Dream.” Many regard the concept of Pan-Africanism as hopeless, even misguided, idealism.

Back then, however, steadfast Garveyites believed they were watching their dreams morph into reality before their very eyes. Each week seemed to bring ever more hopeful news.

The coronation of Haile Selassie had been widely covered in the United States, not only in publications such as Time Magazine, where Selassie was pictured on the cover, but in newsreels that were screened in movie houses nationwide as well as extensively in the black press.

For many blacks in this country, it was the first time they had ever heard an African country and leader spoken of reverentially or seen such pageantry associated with a free black nation. And because it was Ethiopia, a land with such a storied ancient past, they could glimpse the evidence that the propaganda which had been drummed into them for centuries – that Africa had no history worthy of respect – was simply not true.

The historian Rayford Logan described the impact the coronation was having on Americans unaccustomed to such images of Africa:

“When the pictures of the coronation…of Ras Tafari as joint leader with his aunt, Empress Zawditu of Abyssinia, flashed on the screen of a northern theater, one could distinctly sense the shock that disoriented the audience,’’ Logan wrote in the The Southern Workman.(1)

“These coronation pictures…did not conform to the usual behavior pattern. First of all, no white man was anywhere in evidence. Then, the new emperor was brown; his aunt was Negroid; their chiefs were Negroes; the army of 40,000 was black.”

At the very moment Emmanuel was in Harlem, rabbi Ford was in Ethiopia. He had traveled there a year before, in order to perform at the coronation of Haile Selassie. He also hoped to spot out the possibility of his followers to emigrate to the African country, then one of only two on the Continent not in the grasp of European colonial powers. After a series of setbacks and delays, he had finally managed to secure an offer of land and had sent back word for others from the Harlem community should join him.

Leaving Ethiopia at a Young Age
AS A TEENAGER, TAAMRAT EMMANUEL HAD BEEN PLUCKED FROM ETHIOPIA TO EUROPE by the Polish-born rabbi and scholar Jacques Faitlovich. In the late 19th century, British missionaries had converted Emmanuel’s parents from Judaism to Christianity. Faitlovich met the family in Asmara in 1905, after he had been traveling in Ethiopia to investigate the fate of Ethiopian Jews, or “Falasha” as they were then called. Faitlovich wanted to return so-called “lost” Ethiopian Jews into the larger Jewish fold, and so he reconverted the family back to Judaism.

Later, Faitlovich took two teenaged Ethiopians back with him to Europe: one was Getie Jeremias, the other was Emmanuel. Faitlovich’s aim was to educate the boys so that they might become leaders among their people back home. Their presence in Europe would also help to convince Western Jews to support their African brethren who had maintained a very ancient form of the religion.

Emmanuel stood out as the more promising of the two students.(2) He spent about two years in Marseilles, France before being sent to study a number of years in Florence, Italy, where he lived during the First World War.

After the war, Emmanuel returned to Addis Ababa where Faitlovich appointed him headmaster of a school set up to educate so-called “Falashas,” or Beta Israel. Emmanuel ran the school for a few years, despite a number of difficulties. Facilities were poor and students had to travel great distances to come to board there since most Beta Israel lived in rural areas far from the capital. Emmanuel hoped to build a school closer to a Beta Israel community near Gondar in northwestern Ethiopia. He was frustrated by the meager funds he received from Westerners to support his aims.

By the late 1920s, Faitlovich had begun to focus on getting help from Jews in the United States. He and Taamrat came to New York with the help of the American Jewish Pro-Falasha Committee, which had been arranging speaking engagements for them around town.

In New York, however, it was a time of great cultural ferment. Among other issues, two agendas were competing at the same time. Just as Faitlovich was trying to drum up interest among Jews to help return so-called “lost” Ethiopian Jews into the larger Jewish fold, many African descendants in this country were looking to the homeland of their ancestors as a possible refuge from the entrenched racism and severely limited opportunities they faced in the United States.

Once in New York, Emmanuel journeyed to Harlem where he met rabbi Ford in 1928 or 1929.(3) It is not clear whether Ford contributed financially to Emmanuel’s cause, but the encounter proved timely for Ford, solidifying his apparently growing desire to build concrete ties with Ethiopia.

That is because Emmanuel was but the latest of a number of Ethiopians who had been traveling to the US to get African descendants – especially skilled professionals — interested to help modernize Ethiopia. Others included Malaku Bayen, a medical student at Howard University, Kantiba Gabrou, a former mayor of Gondar and Warqnneh Martin, the distinguished physician and diplomat. It is believed that Ford first met Gabrou in Harlem in 1919, while Gabrou was visiting the US as part of an official friendship diplomatic delegation sent by Selassie after the First World War.

A decade later, not long after his encounter with Emmanuel, the Harlemite left for Africa.

beyan11.jpg
Above: Malaku Bayen, a medical student at Howard
University in the 1930′s. He is believed to be the first
Ethiopian to receive a college degree from the U.S.

Taamrat Emmanuel Addressed the Audience in French and West Africans Assisted as Interpreters.

All of this would have been known to many who came to listen to Emmanuel at the Commandment Keepers Congregation the night of December 23, 1931. A press statement written after the event notes that several native-born Africans, including some from French colonies, were in the audience. They were needed, it turned out, as translators because Emmanuel did not speak English. A bilingual man from French Guinea gave a short talk to the congregation about Africa, then translated for Emmanuel who addressed the audience in French.

“He assured [the audience] that he was the same as they and was very proud to be,’’ according to the statement, which is archived at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York.

Whether the Ethiopians and the black New Yorkers actually shared a common heritage had been a point of considerable controversy. This was true not only with regard to the Jewish question, but also among the larger community. So much so that popular black historian J.A. Rogers addressed the topic in his 1930 book, The Real Facts About Ethiopia, by attempting to reassure his American readers, “Ethiopia has always shown her friendliness to such Aframericans as have visited her.”

Among Matthew’s congregation, the controversy heated up considerably in the weeks just before Emmanuel’s talk. On December 2, The Amsterdam News ran a brief story that the local chairman of the American Pro-Falasha committee had publicly “denounced for the second time Harlem’s Negro adherents of the [Jewish] faith as fakes in a Jamaica [Long Island] meeting.”

In the article, Rabbi Matthew responded to the charge by Dr. Norman Salit with a challenge of his own saying that he was willing to debate the matter publicly.

“His statement that Harlem’s temples are a grotesque phenomena rising out of the mystic sensitivity of the Afro American played upon by charlatans is absolutely false,” Matthew said.

After his talk, an audience member asked Emmanuel about the issue. The controversy may have seemed strange to Emmanuel, unaccustomed as he must have been to the intricacies of American racial politics.

Under Faitlovich’s tutelage, he had been counseled against the development of any race consciousness or nationalist sentiment other than the brand of religious Zionism favored by Faitlovich, according to Shlomo Levy, Assistant Professor of History at Northampton Community College in Pennsylvania.

Yet Emmanuel, and Faitlovich’s other Ethiopian students, had their own ideas on the matter.

“As they traveled and read, they became aware of how the Western world viewed them and how their own leaders treated them,” said Levy.

Striking a balance between his identity as an Ethiopian and a Jew was an issue that would follow the Emmanuel throughout his life.

According to Levy, “Emmanuel’s struggle to find a balance between preserving a healthy respect for the traditions of the Beta Israel, while at the same time trying to forge a meaningful relationship with European Jewry, proved to be illusory.”

That night in 1931, however, the prospect of expanding ties between two disparate, far flung branches of Africa’s family might have seemed not only hopeful, but tangible. Emmanuel tried to play peacemaker.

“Mr. Salit is a friend,” Emmanuel said in response to the question, according to the press statement.

“But when [Salit] made the statement [I] was indeed surprised because he is sufficiently educated to know that he has neither historical nor biblical proof for his statement.”

The statement concluded by noting that Emmanuel: “begged that we drop the matter and forget about it.”


About the Author:
Jody Benjamin is an Associate Editor of the African American National Biography, to be published by Oxford University Press in 2008. He is working on a non-fiction book about the black Hebrews.

Sources:
1. Logan, Rayford W., Abyssinia Breaks into the Movies, The Southern Workman, August, 1929

2. Trevisan Semi, Emanuela, La correspondance de Taamrat Emmanuel: Intellectuel juif d’Ethiopie dans la premiere moitie du XX siecle, Torino : Editrice L’Harmattan Italia, 2000

3. Scott, William Randolph. The Sons of Sheba’s Race: African Americans and the Italo-Ethiopian War 1935-1941, Bloomington : Indiana University Press, c1993

Cover photo: Trevisan Semi, Emanuela, La correspondance de Taamrat Emmanuel: Intellectuel juif d’Ethiopie dans la premiere moitie du XX siecle, Torino: Editrice L’Harmattan Italia, 2000



African American and Ethiopian Relations

Jazz great Duke Ellington toasts with Emperor Haile Selassie after receiving Ethiopia's Medal of Honor in 1973. (Photo: Ethiopiancrown.org)

Tadias Magazine

By Tseday Alehegn

New York (TADIAS) – Ethiopia, also called Yaltopya, Cush, and Abyssinia, stands as the oldest, continuous, black civilization on earth, and the second oldest civilization in history after China. This home of mine has been immortalized in fables, legends, and epics. Homer’s Illiad, Aristotle’s A Treatise on Government, Miguel Cervante’s Don Quixote, the Bible, the Koran, and the Torah are but a few potent examples of Ethiopia’s popularity in literature. But it is in studying the historical relations between African Americans and Ethiopians that I came to understand ‘ Ethiopia’ as a ray of light. Like the sun, Ethiopia has spread its beams on black nations across the globe. Her history is carefully preserved in dust-ridden books, in library corners and research centers. Her beauty is caught by a photographer’s discerning eye, her spirituality revived by priests and preachers. Ultimately, however, it is the oral journals of our elders that helped me capture glitters of wisdom that would palliate my thirst for a panoptic and definitive knowledge.

The term ‘Ethiopian’ has been used in a myriad of ways; it is attributed to the indigenous inhabitants of the land located in the Eastern Horn of Africa, as well as more generally denotive of individuals of African descent. Indeed, at one time, the body of water now known as the Atlantic Ocean was known as the Ethiopian Ocean. And it was across this very ocean that the ancestors of African Americans were brought to America and the ‘ New World.’

Early African American Writers

Although physically separated from their ancestral homeland and amidst the opprobrious shackles of slavery, African American poets, writers, abolitionists, and politicians persisted in forging a collective identity, seeking to link themselves figuratively if not literally to the African continent. One of the first published African American writers, Phillis Wheatly, sought refuge in referring to herself as an “Ethiop”. Wheatley, an outspoken poet, was also one of the earliest voices of the anti-slavery movement, and often wrote to newspapers of her passion for freedom. She eloquently asserted, “In every human breast God has implanted a principle, it is impatient of oppression.” In 1834 another anti-slavery poet, William Stanley Roscoe, published his poem “The Ethiop” recounting the tale of an African fighter ending the reign of slavery in the Caribbean. Paul Dunbar’s notable “Ode to Ethiopia,” published in 1896, was eventually put to music by William Grant Still and performed in 1930 by the Afro-American Symphony. In his fiery anti-slavery speech entitled “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” prominent black leader Frederick Douglas blazed at his opponents, “Africa must rise and put on her yet unwoven garment. Ethiopia shall stretch out her hand unto God.”

First Ethiopians Travel to America

As African Americans fixed their gaze on Ethiopia, Ethiopians also traveled to the ‘New World’ and learned of the African presence in the Americas. In 1808 merchants from Ethiopia arrived at New York’s famous Wall Street. While attempting to attend church services at the First Baptist Church of New York, the Ethiopian merchants, along with their African American colleagues, experienced the ongoing routine of racial discrimination. As an act of defiance against segregation in a house of worship, African Americans and Ethiopians organized their own church on Worth Street in Lower Manhattan and named it Abyssinia Baptist Church. Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. served as the first preacher, and new building was later purchased on Waverly Place in the West Village before the church was moved to its current location in Harlem. Scholar Fikru Negash Gebrekidan likewise notes that, along with such literal acts of rebellion, anti slavery leaders Robert Alexander Young and David Walker published pamphlets entitled Ethiopian Manifesto and Appeal in 1829 in an effort to galvanize blacks to rise against their slave masters.


Reverend Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III, current head of the Abyssinia Baptist Church in Harlem, led a delegation of 150 to Ethiopia in 2007 as part of the church’s bicentennial celebration and in honor of the Ethiopian Millennium. (Photo: At Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, New York on Sunday, November 4, 2007/Tadias)

Adwa Victory & ‘Back to Africa’ Movement

When Italian colonialists encroached on Ethiopian territory and were soundly defeated in the Battle of Adwa on March 1, 1896, it became the first African victory over a European colonial power, and the victory resounded loud and clear among compatriots of the black diaspora. “For the oppressed masses Adwa…would become a cause célèbre,” writes Gebrekidan, “a metaphor for racial pride and anti-colonial defiance, living proof that skin color or hair texture bore no significance on intellect and character.” Soon, African Americans and blacks from the Caribbean Islands began to make their way to Abyssinia. In 1903, accompanied by Haitian poet and traveler Benito Sylvain, an affluent African American business magnate by the name of William Henry Ellis arrived in Ethiopia to greet and make acquaintances with Emperor Menelik. A prominent physician from the West Indies, Dr. Joseph Vitalien, also journeyed to Ethiopia and eventually became the Emperor’ trusted personal physician.

For black America, the early 1900s was a time consumed with the notion of “returning to Africa,” to the source. With physical proof of the beginnings of colonial demise, a charismatic and savvy Jamaican immigrant and businessman named Marcus Garvey established his grassroots organization in 1917 under the title United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) with branches in various states. Using the success of Ethiopia’s independence as a beacon of freedom for blacks residing in the Americas, Garvey envisioned a shipping business that would raise enough money and register members to volunteer to be repatriated to Africa. In a few years time, Garvey’s UNIA raised approximately ten million dollars and boasted an impressive membership of half a million individuals.

Notable civil rights leader Malcolm X began his autobiography by mentioning his father, Reverend Earl Little, as a staunch supporter of the UNIA. “It was only me that he sometimes took with him to the Garvey U.N.I.A. meetings which he held quietly in different people’s homes,” says Malcolm. “I can remember hearing of ‘ Africa for the Africans,’ ‘Ethiopians, Awake!’” Malcolm’s early association with Garvey’s pan-African message resonated with him as he schooled himself in reading, writing, and history. “I can remember accurately the very first set of books that really impressed me,” Malcolm professes, “J.A. Rogers’ three volumes told about Aesop being a black man who told fables; about the great Coptic Christian Empires; about Ethiopia, the earth’s oldest continuous black civilization.”

By the time the Ethiopian government had decided to send its first official diplomatic mission to the United States, Marcus Garvey had already emblazoned an image of Ethiopia into the minds and hearts of his African American supporters. “I see a great ray of light and the bursting of a mighty political cloud which will bring you complete freedom,” he promised them, and they in turn eagerly propagated his message.

The Harlem Renaissance & Emigrating to Ethiopia


A headline by the Chicago Defender announcing the arrival of the first Abyssinian diplomatic delegation to the United States on July 11, 1919.

In 1919 an official Ethiopian goodwill mission was sent to the United States, the first African delegation of diplomats, in hopes of creating amicable ties with the American people and government. The four-person delegation included Dadjazmatch Nadou, Ato Belanghetta Herouy Wolde Selassie, Kantiba Gabrou, and Ato Sinkas. Having been acquainted with African Americans such as businessman William Ellis, Kantiba Gabrou, the mayor of Gondar, made a formal appeal during his trip for African Americans to emigrate to Ethiopia. Arnold Josiah Ford, a Harlem resident from Barbados, had an opportunity to meet the 1919 Ethiopian delegation. Having already heard of the existence of black Jews in Ethiopia, Ford established his own synagogue for the black community soon after meeting the Ethiopian delegation. Along with a Nigerian-born bishop named Arthur Wentworth Matthews, Ford created the Commandment Keepers Church on 123rd Street in Harlem and taught the congregation about the existence of black Jews in Ethiopia. Meanwhile, in the international spotlight, 1919 was the year the League of Nations was created, of which Ethiopia became the first member from the African continent. The mid 1900s gave birth to the Harlem Renaissance. With many African Americans migrating to the north in search of a segregation-free life, and a large contention of black writers, actors, artists and singers gathering in places like Harlem, a new culture of black artistic expression thrived. Even so, the Harlem Renaissance was more than just a time of literary discussions and hot jazz; it represented a confluence of creativity summoning forth the humanity and pride of blacks in America – a counterculture subverting the grain of thought ‘separate and unequal.’


Commandment Keepers Synagogue. (Photography by Chester Higgins. ©chesterhiggins.com)

As in earlier times, the terms ‘Ethiopian’ and ‘Ethiop’ continued to be utilized by Harlem writers and poets to instill black pride. In other U.S. cities like Chicago, actors calling themselves the ‘National Ethiopian Art Players’ performed The Chip Woman’s Fortune by Willis Richardson, the first serious play by a black writer to hit Broadway.

In 1927, Ethiopia’s Ambassador to London, Azaj Workneh Martin, arrived in New York and appealed once again for African American professionals to emigrate and work in Ethiopia. In return they were promised free land and high wages. In 1931 the Emperor granted eight hundred acres for settlement by African Americans, and Arnold Josiah Ford, bishop of the Commandment Keepers Church, became one of the first to accept the invitation. Along with sixty-six other individuals, Ford emigrated and started life anew in Ethiopia.

Ethiopian Students in America: Mobilizing Support

In November 1930, Teferī Makonnen was coronated as Emperor of Ethiopia. The event blared on radios, and Harlemites heard and marveled at the ceremonies of a black king. The emperor’s face glossed the cover of Time Magazine, which remarked on “negro newsorgans” in America hailing the king “as their own.” African American pilot Hubert Julian, dubbed “The Black Eagle of Harlem,” had visited Ethiopia and attended the coronation. Describing the momentous occasion to Time Magazine, Hubert rhapsodized:

“When I arrived in Ethiopia the King was glad to see me… I took off with a French pilot… We climbed to 5,000 ft. as 50,000 people cheered, and then I jumped out and tugged open my parachute… I floated down to within 40 ft. of the King, who incidentally is the greatest of all modern rulers… He rushed up and pinned the highest medal given in that country on my breast, made me a colonel and the leader of his air force — and here I am!”

Joel Augustus Rogers, famed author and correspondent for New York’s black newspaper Amsterdam News, also covered the Coronation of Haile Selassie and was likewise presented with a coronation medal.

After his official coronation, Emperor Haile Selassie sent forth the first wave of Ethiopian students to continue their education abroad. Melaku Beyan was a member of the primary batch of students sent to America in the 1930s. He attended Ohio State University and later received his medical degree at Howard Medical School in Washington, D.C. During his schooling years at Howard, he forged lasting friendships with members of the black community and, at Emperor Haile Selassie’s request, he endeavored to enlist African American professionals to work in Ethiopia. Beyan was successful in recruiting several individuals, including teachers Joseph Hall and William Jackson, as well as physicians Dr. John West and Dr. Reuben S. Young, the latter of whom began a private practice in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, prior to his official assignment as a municipal health officer in Dire Dawa, Harar.

african_americans_professionals1.jpg
African American professionals in Addis Ababa – 1942. Kneeling, left to right: Andrew
Howard Hester, Edward Eugene Jones, Edgar E. Love. Standing, left to right: David Talbot, Thurlow
Evan Tibbs, James William Cheeks, the Reverend Mr. Hamilton, John Robinson, Edgar D. Draper

(Photo: Crown Council of Ethiopia)

Italo-Ethiopian War 1935-1941

beyan1.jpg
Melaku Beyan

By the mid 1930s the Emperor had sent a second diplomatic mission to the U.S. Vexed at Italy’s consistently aggressive behavior towards his nation, Haile Selassie attempted to forge stronger ties with America. Despite being a member of the League of Nations, Italy disregarded international law and invaded Ethiopia in 1935. The Ethiopian government appealed for support at the League of Nations and elsewhere, through representatives such as the young, charismatic speaker Melaku Beyan in the United States. Beyan had married an African American activist, Dorothy Hadley, and together they created a newspaper called Voice of Ethiopia to simultaneously denounce Jim Crow in America and fascist invasion in Ethiopia. Joel Rogers, the correspondent who had previously attended the Emperor’s coronation, returned to Ethiopia as a war correspondent for The Pittsburgh Courier, then America’s most widely-circulated black newspaper. Upon returning to the United States a year later, he published a pamphlet entitled The Real Facts About Ethiopia, a scathing and uncompromising report on the destruction caused by Italian troops in Ethiopia. Melaku Beyan used the pamphlet in his speaking tours, while his wife Dorothy designed and passed out pins that read “Save Ethiopia.”

In Harlem, Chicago, and various other cities African American churches urged their members to speak out against the invasion. Beyan established at least 28 branches of the newly-formed Ethiopian World Federation, an organ of resistance calling on Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia throughout the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. News of Ethiopia’s plight fueled indignation and furious debates among African Americans. Touched by the Emperor’s speech at the League of Nations, Roger’s accounts, and Melaku’s impassioned message, blacks vowed to support Ethiopia. Still others wrote letters to Haile Selassie, some giving advice, others support and commentary. “I pray that you will deliver yourself from crucifixion,” wrote one black woman from Los Angeles, “and show the whites that they are not as civilized as they loudly assert themselves to be.”

Although the United States was not officially in support of Ethiopia, scores of African Americans attempted to enlist to fight in Ethiopia. Unable to legally succeed on this front, several individuals traveled to Ethiopia on ‘humanitarian’ grounds. Author Gail Lumet Buckley cites two African American pilots, John Robinson and the ‘Black Eagle of Harlem’ Hubert Julian, who joined the Ethiopian Air Corps, then made up of only three non-combat planes. John Robinson, a member of the first group of black students that entered Curtis Wright Flight School, flew his plane delivering medical supplies to different towns across the country. Blacks in America continued to stand behind the Emperor and organized medical supply drives from New York’s Harlem Hospital. Melaku Beyan and his African American counterparts remained undeterred for the remainder of Ethiopia’s struggle against colonization. In 1940, a year before Ethiopia’s victory against Italy, Melaku Beyan succumbed to pneumonia, which he had caught while walking door-to-door in the peak of winter, speaking boldly about the war for freedom in Ethiopia.

colonerobinson1_inside.jpg
Above: Colonel John C. Robinson arrives in Chicago after heroically
leading the Ethiopian Air Force against the invading Mussolini’s
Italian forces.
(Photo via Ethiopiancrown.org)

Lasting Legacies: Ties That Bind

Traveling through Harlem in my mind’s eye, I see the mighty organs of resistance that played such a pivotal role in “keeping aloft” the banner of Ethiopia and fostering deep friendships among blacks in Africa and America. I envision the doors Melaku Beyan knocked on as he passed out pamphlets; the pulpits on street corners where Malcolm X stood preaching about the strength and beauty of black people, fired up by the history he read. The Abyssinia Baptist Church stands today bigger and bolder, and inside you find the most exquisite Ethiopian cross, a gift from the late Emperor to the people of Harlem and a symbol of love and gratitude for their support and friendship.


Left, Emperor Haile Selassie presenting the cross to Reverend Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., on May 27, 1954. (Photography by Marvin Smith). Right, Rev. Dr. Calvin Butts, the current head of the Abyssinia Baptist Church.

Several Coptic churches line the streets of Harlem, and the ancient synagogue of the Commandment Keepers established by Arnold Ford continues to have Sabbath services. The offices of the Amsterdam News are still as busy as ever, recording and recounting the past and present state of black struggles. Over the years, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture has carefully preserved the photographic proofs of the ties that bind African Americans and Ethiopians, just in case the stories told are too magical to grasp.The name ‘Ethiopia’ conjures a kaleidoscope of images and verbs. In researching the historical relations between African Americans and Ethiopians, I learned that Ethiopia is synonymous with ‘freedom,’ ‘black dignity’ and ‘self-worth.’ In the process, I looked to my elders and heeded the wisdom they have to share. In his message to the grassroots of Detroit, Michigan, Malcolm X once asserted, “Of all our studies, history is best qualified to reward our research.” It is this kernel of truth that propelled me to share this rich history in celebration of Black History Month and the victory of Adwa.

In attempting to understand what Ethiopia really means, I turn to Ethiopia’s Poet Laureate Tsegaye Gabre-Medhin. “The Ethiopia of rich history is the heart of Africa’s civilization,” he said. “She is the greatest example of Africa’s pride. Ethiopia means peace. The word ‘ Ethiopia’ emanates from a connection of three old Egyptian words, Et, Op and Bia, meaning truth and peace, up and upper, country and land. Et-Op-Bia is land of upper truth or land of higher peace.”

This is my all-time, favorite definition of Ethiopia, because it brings us back to our indigenous roots: The same roots that African Americans and the diaspora have searched for; the same roots from which we have sprung and grown into individuals rich in confidence. Welcome to Ethiopia!


About the Author:
Tseday Alehegn is the Editor-in-Chief of Tadias Magazine.

Related:
In Pictures: Harlem Rekindles Old Friendship With Ethiopia (TADIAS)
Ethiopian & African American Relations: The Case of Melaku E. Bayen and John Robinson (TADIAS)

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

African American & Ethiopian Relations

Abyssinian 200 featuring the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, the Abyssinian Baptist Church Choir and Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts III. (Photo via jalc.org)

Tadias Magazine
By Tseday Alehegn

Updated: August 10th, 2008

New York (TADIAS) – As members of Harlem’s legendary Abyssinian Baptist Church, a symbol of African American and Ethiopian relations, prepare for the church’s bicentennial celebration, we offer the following article from our archive that reminds us of the lasting legacies and ties that bind.

Ethiopia, also called Yaltopya, Cush, and Abyssinia, stands as the oldest, continuous, black civilization on earth, and the second oldest civilization in history after China. This home of mine has been immortalized in fables, legends, and epics. Homer’s Illiad, Aristotle’s A Treatise on Government, Miguel Cervante’s Don Quixote, the Bible, the Koran, and the Torah are but a few potent examples of Ethiopia’s popularity in literature. But it is in studying the historical relations between African Americans and Ethiopians that I came to understand ‘ Ethiopia’ as a ray of light. Like the sun, Ethiopia has spread its beams on black nations across the globe. Her history is carefully preserved in dust-ridden books, in library corners and research centers. Her beauty is caught by a photographer’s discerning eye, her spirituality revived by priests and preachers. Ultimately, however, it is the oral journals of our elders that helped me capture glitters of wisdom that would palliate my thirst for a panoptic and definitive knowledge.

The term ‘Ethiopian’ has been used in a myriad of ways; it is attributed to the indigenous inhabitants of the land located in the Eastern Horn of Africa, as well as more generally denotive of individuals of African descent. Indeed, at one time, the body of water now known as the Atlantic Ocean was known as the Ethiopian Ocean. And it was across this very ocean that the ancestors of African Americans were brought to America and the ‘ New World.’

Early African American Writers

Although physically separated from their ancestral homeland and amidst the opprobrious shackles of slavery, African American poets, writers, abolitionists, and politicians persisted in forging a collective identity, seeking to link themselves figuratively if not literally to the African continent. One of the first published African American writers, Phillis Wheatly, sought refuge in referring to herself as an “Ethiop”. Wheatley, an outspoken poet, was also one of the earliest voices of the anti-slavery movement, and often wrote to newspapers of her passion for freedom. She eloquently asserted, “In every human breast God has implanted a principle, it is impatient of oppression.” In 1834 another anti-slavery poet, William Stanley Roscoe, published his poem “The Ethiop” recounting the tale of an African fighter ending the reign of slavery in the Caribbean. Paul Dunbar’s notable “Ode to Ethiopia,” published in 1896, was eventually put to music by William Grant Still and performed in 1930 by the Afro-American Symphony. In his fiery anti-slavery speech entitled “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” prominent black leader Frederick Douglas blazed at his opponents, “Africa must rise and put on her yet unwoven garment. Ethiopia shall stretch out her hand unto God.”

First Ethiopians Travel to America

As African Americans fixed their gaze on Ethiopia, Ethiopians also traveled to the ‘New World’ and learned of the African presence in the Americas. In 1808 merchants from Ethiopia arrived at New York’s famous Wall Street. While attempting to attend church services at the First Baptist Church of New York, the Ethiopian merchants, along with their African American colleagues, experienced the ongoing routine of racial discrimination. As an act of defiance against segregation in a house of worship, African Americans and Ethiopians organized their own church on Worth Street in Lower Manhattan and named it Abyssinia Baptist Church. Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. served as the first preacher, and new building was later purchased on Waverly Place in the West Village before the church was moved to its current location in Harlem. Scholar Fikru Negash Gebrekidan likewise notes that, along with such literal acts of rebellion, anti slavery leaders Robert Alexander Young and David Walker published pamphlets entitled Ethiopian Manifesto and Appeal in 1829 in an effort to galvanize blacks to rise against their slave masters.

rev_butts_inside.jpg
Above: Reverend Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III, current head of the Abyssinia
Baptist Church in Harlem, led a delegation of 150 to Ethiopia in 2007 as
part of the church’s bicentennial celebration and in honor of the Ethiopian
Millennium. Photo: At Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem on Sunday,
November 4, 2007. (Tadias)

Adwa Victory &‘Back to Africa’ Movement

When Italian colonialists encroached on Ethiopian territory and were soundly defeated in the Battle of Adwa on March 1, 1896, it became the first African victory over a European colonial power, and the victory resounded loud and clear among compatriots of the black diaspora. “For the oppressed masses Adwa…would become a cause célèbre,” writes Gebrekidan, “a metaphor for racial pride and anti-colonial defiance, living proof that skin color or hair texture bore no significance on intellect and character.” Soon, African Americans and blacks from the Caribbean Islands began to make their way to Abyssinia. In 1903, accompanied by Haitian poet and traveler Benito Sylvain, an affluent African American business magnate by the name of William Henry Ellis arrived in Ethiopia to greet and make acquaintances with Emperor Menelik. A prominent physician from the West Indies, Dr. Joseph Vitalien, also journeyed to Ethiopia and eventually became the Emperor’ trusted personal physician.

For black America, the early 1900s was a time consumed with the notion of “returning to Africa,” to the source. With physical proof of the beginnings of colonial demise, a charismatic and savvy Jamaican immigrant and businessman named Marcus Garvey established his grassroots organization in 1917 under the title United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) with branches in various states. Using the success of Ethiopia’s independence as a beacon of freedom for blacks residing in the Americas, Garvey envisioned a shipping business that would raise enough money and register members to volunteer to be repatriated to Africa. In a few years time, Garvey’s UNIA raised approximately ten million dollars and boasted an impressive membership of half a million individuals.

Notable civil rights leader Malcolm X began his autobiography by mentioning his father, Reverend Earl Little, as a staunch supporter of the UNIA. “It was only me that he sometimes took with him to the Garvey U.N.I.A. meetings which he held quietly in different people’s homes,” says Malcolm. “I can remember hearing of ‘ Africa for the Africans,’ ‘Ethiopians, Awake!’” Malcolm’s early association with Garvey’s pan-African message resonated with him as he schooled himself in reading, writing, and history. “I can remember accurately the very first set of books that really impressed me,” Malcolm professes, “J.A. Rogers’ three volumes told about Aesop being a black man who told fables; about the great Coptic Christian Empires; about Ethiopia, the earth’s oldest continuous black civilization.”

By the time the Ethiopian government had decided to send its first official diplomatic mission to the United States, Marcus Garvey had already emblazoned an image of Ethiopia into the minds and hearts of his African American supporters. “I see a great ray of light and the bursting of a mighty political cloud which will bring you complete freedom,” he promised them, and they in turn eagerly propagated his message.

The Harlem Renaissance & Emigrating to Ethiopia
history2_big.jpg
Above: A headline by the Chicago Defender announcing the
arrival of the first Abyssinian diplomatic delegation to the United
States on July 11, 1919.

In 1919 an official Ethiopian goodwill mission was sent to the United States, the first African delegation of diplomats, in hopes of creating amicable ties with the American people and government. The four-person delegation included Dadjazmatch Nadou, Ato Belanghetta Herouy Wolde Selassie, Kantiba Gabrou, and Ato Sinkas. Having been acquainted with African Americans such as businessman William Ellis, Kantiba Gabrou, the mayor of Gondar, made a formal appeal during his trip for African Americans to emigrate to Ethiopia. Arnold Josiah Ford, a Harlem resident from Barbados, had an opportunity to meet the 1919 Ethiopian delegation. Having already heard of the existence of black Jews in Ethiopia, Ford established his own synagogue for the black community soon after meeting the Ethiopian delegation. Along with a Nigerian-born bishop named Arthur Wentworth Matthews, Ford created the Commandment Keepers Church on 123rd Street in Harlem and taught the congregation about the existence of black Jews in Ethiopia. Meanwhile, in the international spotlight, 1919 was the year the League of Nations was created, of which Ethiopia became the first member from the African continent. The mid 1900s gave birth to the Harlem Renaissance. With many African Americans migrating to the north in search of a segregation-free life, and a large contention of black writers, actors, artists and singers gathering in places like Harlem, a new culture of black artistic expression thrived. Even so, the Harlem Renaissance was more than just a time of literary discussions and hot jazz; it represented a confluence of creativity summoning forth the humanity and pride of blacks in America – a counterculture subverting the grain of thought ‘separate and unequal.’

ford_syneg.jpg
Above: Commandment Keepers Synagogue.. Photography by Chester Higgins.
©chesterhiggins.com

As in earlier times, the terms ‘Ethiopian’ and ‘Ethiop’ continued to be utilized by Harlem writers and poets to instill black pride. In other U.S. cities like Chicago, actors calling themselves the ‘National Ethiopian Art Players’ performed The Chip Woman’s Fortune by Willis Richardson, the first serious play by a black writer to hit Broadway.

In 1927, Ethiopia’s Ambassador to London, Azaj Workneh Martin, arrived in New York and appealed once again for African American professionals to emigrate and work in Ethiopia. In return they were promised free land and high wages. In 1931 the Emperor granted eight hundred acres for settlement by African Americans, and Arnold Josiah Ford, bishop of the Commandment Keepers Church, became one of the first to accept the invitation. Along with sixty-six other individuals, Ford emigrated and started life anew in Ethiopia.

Ethiopian Students in America: Mobilizing Support

In November 1930, Taffari Makonnen was coronated as Emperor of Ethiopia. The event blared on radios, and Harlemites heard and marveled at the ceremonies of a black king. The emperor’s face glossed the cover of Time Magazine, which remarked on “negro newsorgans” in America hailing the king “as their own.” African American pilot Hubert Julian, dubbed “The Black Eagle of Harlem,” had visited Ethiopia and attended the coronation. Describing the momentous occasion to Time Magazine, Hubert rhapsodized:

“When I arrived in Ethiopia the King was glad to see me… I took off with a French pilot… We climbed to 5,000 ft. as 50,000 people cheered, and then I jumped out and tugged open my parachute… I floated down to within 40 ft. of the King, who incidentally is the greatest of all modern rulers… He rushed up and pinned the highest medal given in that country on my breast, made me a colonel and the leader of his air force — and here I am!”

Joel Augustus Rogers, famed author and correspondent for New York’s black newspaper Amsterdam News, also covered the Coronation of Haile Selassie and was likewise presented with a coronation medal.

After his official coronation, Emperor Haile Selassie sent forth the first wave of Ethiopian students to continue their education abroad. Melaku Beyan was a member of the primary batch of students sent to America in the 1930s. He attended Ohio State University and later received his medical degree at Howard Medical School in Washington, D.C. During his schooling years at Howard, he forged lasting friendships with members of the black community and, at Emperor Haile Selassie’s request, he endeavored to enlist African American professionals to work in Ethiopia. Beyan was successful in recruiting several individuals, including teachers Joseph Hall and William Jackson, as well as physicians Dr. John West and Dr. Reuben S. Young, the latter of whom began a private practice in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, prior to his official assignment as a municipal health officer in Dire Dawa, Harar.

african_americans_professionals1.jpg
African American professionals in Addis Ababa – 1942. Kneeling, left to right: Andrew
Howard Hester, Edward Eugene Jones, Edgar E. Love. Standing, left to right: David Talbot, Thurlow
Evan Tibbs, James William Cheeks, the Reverend Mr. Hamilton, John Robinson, Edgar D. Draper

(Ethiopiancrown.org)

Italo-Ethiopian War 1935-1941
beyan1.jpg
Melaku Beyan

By the mid 1930s the Emperor had sent a second diplomatic mission to the U.S. Vexed at Italy’s consistently aggressive behavior towards his nation, Haile Selassie attempted to forge stronger ties with America. Despite being a member of the League of Nations, Italy disregarded international law and invaded Ethiopia in 1935. The Ethiopian government appealed for support at the League of Nations and elsewhere, through representatives such as the young, charismatic speaker Melaku Beyan in the United States. Beyan had married an African American activist, Dorothy Hadley, and together they created a newspaper called Voice of Ethiopia to simultaneously denounce Jim Crow in America and fascist invasion in Ethiopia. Joel Rogers, the correspondent who had previously attended the Emperor’s coronation, returned to Ethiopia as a war correspondent for The Pittsburgh Courier, then America’s most widely-circulated black newspaper. Upon returning to the United States a year later, he published a pamphlet entitled The Real Facts About Ethiopia, a scathing and uncompromising report on the destruction caused by Italian troops in Ethiopia. Melaku Beyan used the pamphlet in his speaking tours, while his wife Dorothy designed and passed out pins that read “Save Ethiopia.”

In Harlem, Chicago, and various other cities African American churches urged their members to speak out against the invasion. Beyan established at least 28 branches of the newly-formed Ethiopian World Federation, an organ of resistance calling on Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia throughout the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. News of Ethiopia’s plight fueled indignation and furious debates among African Americans. Touched by the Emperor’s speech at the League of Nations, Roger’s accounts, and Melaku’s impassioned message, blacks vowed to support Ethiopia. Still others wrote letters to Haile Selassie, some giving advice, others support and commentary. “I pray that you will deliver yourself from crucifixion,” wrote one black woman from Los Angeles, “and show the whites that they are not as civilized as they loudly assert themselves to be.”

Although the United States was not officially in support of Ethiopia, scores of African Americans attempted to enlist to fight in Ethiopia. Unable to legally succeed on this front, several individuals traveled to Ethiopia on ‘humanitarian’ grounds. Author Gail Lumet Buckley cites two African American pilots, John Robinson and the ‘Black Eagle of Harlem’ Hubert Julian, who joined the Ethiopian Air Corps, then made up of only three non-combat planes. John Robinson, a member of the first group of black students that entered Curtis Wright Flight School, flew his plane delivering medical supplies to different towns across the country. Blacks in America continued to stand behind the Emperor and organized medical supply drives from New York’s Harlem Hospital. Melaku Beyan and his African American counterparts remained undeterred for the remainder of Ethiopia’s struggle against colonization. In 1940, a year before Ethiopia’s victory against Italy, Melaku Beyan succumbed to pneumonia, which he had caught while walking door-to-door in the peak of winter, speaking boldly about the war for freedom in Ethiopia.

colonerobinson1_inside.jpg
Above: Colonel John C. Robinson arrives in Chicago after heroically
leading the Ethiopian Air Force against the invading Mussolini’s
Italian forces.
(Ethiopiancrown.org)

Lasting Legacies: Ties That Bind

Traveling through Harlem in my mind’s eye, I see the mighty organs of resistance that played such a pivotal role in “keeping aloft” the banner of Ethiopia and fostering deep friendships among blacks in Africa and America. I envision the doors Melaku Beyan knocked on as he passed out pamphlets; the pulpits on street corners where Malcolm X stood preaching about the strength and beauty of black people, fired up by the history he read. The Abyssinia Baptist Church stands today bigger and bolder, and inside you find the most exquisite Ethiopian cross, a gift from the late Emperor to the people of Harlem and a symbol of love and gratitude for their support and friendship.

haile_powel.jpg
Above: Emperor Haile Selassie
presenting the cross to Reverened
Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., on May 27,
1954. Photography by Marvin Smith.

Several Coptic churches line the streets of Harlem, and the ancient synagogue of the Commandment Keepers established by Arnold Ford continues to have Sabbath services. The offices of the Amsterdam News are still as busy as ever, recording and recounting the past and present state of black struggles. Over the years, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture has carefully preserved the photographic proofs of the ties that bind African Americans and Ethiopians, just in case the stories told are too magical to grasp.The name ‘Ethiopia’ conjures a kaleidoscope of images and verbs. In researching the historical relations between African Americans and Ethiopians, I learned that Ethiopia is synonymous with ‘freedom,’ ‘black dignity’ and ‘self-worth.’ In the process, I looked to my elders and heeded the wisdom they have to share. In his message to the grassroots of Detroit, Michigan, Malcolm X once asserted, “Of all our studies, history is best qualified to reward our research.” It is this kernel of truth that propelled me to share this rich history in celebration of Black History Month and the victory of Adwa.

In attempting to understand what Ethiopia really means, I turn to Ethiopia’s Poet Laureate Tsegaye Gabre-Medhin. “The Ethiopia of rich history is the heart of Africa’s civilization,” he said. “She is the greatest example of Africa’s pride. Ethiopia means peace. The word ‘ Ethiopia’ emanates from a connection of three old black Egyptian words, Et, Op and Bia, meaning truth and peace, up and upper, country and land. Et-Op-Bia is land of upper truth or land of higher peace.”

This is my all-time, favorite definition of Ethiopia, because it brings us back to our indigenous African roots: The same roots that African Americans and black people in the diaspora have searched for; the same roots from which we have sprung and grown into individuals rich in confidence. Welcome to blackness. Welcome to Ethiopia!

About the Author:
tseday.jpg
Tseday Alehegn is the Editor-in-Chief of Tadias Magazine. Tseday is a graduate of Stanford University (both B.A. & M.A.). In addition to her responsibilities at Tadias, she is also a Doctoral student at Columbia University.

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Photo by Gabriella Muttone

Publisher’s Note:

Steven Ivory has been a music and culture journalist for more than twenty-five years. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Essence, Vibe, and The Source, among other publications. He lives in Los Angeles, California.

This article had been published on the Electronic Urban Report (EURweb.com) and the African-American Village prior to its publication here with the author’s permission in January 2003.

Steven told Tadias that Ethiopians who have read the essay have responded to him with warm words and expressions of regret.

“So many Ethiopian people have written in kindness and apology”, he said. “There is no need for this, I know that the actions of a few don’t speak for a whole race.”

We have selected this piece from our archives with a hope that it might spark a healthy debate on the issue.

My Own Kind
By Steven Ivory

For several years, I’d passed the restaurant while driving through that side of town. It looked like an interesting spot; I said I’d stick my head in there one day.

But when that day finally came, it reminded me of the scene in the movie “48 Hours,” where Eddie Murphy ventures into a bar that happens to be a white country & western joint. My arrival was not nearly as spectacular, but I did elicit my share of curious glances.

A bartender can set the mood for a patron, and the man pouring my drink was pleasant. However, our good-natured chat about the weather and the day’s headlines wasn’t enough to take the chill off this room. I casually looked around the place and couldn’t find one face that appeared to hold much love for a newcomer.

Taking another sip of my beer, I told myself that maybe it was just me. What did I expect, a welcoming committee? I reminded myself that many social establishments often react a little coolly to non-regulars. Maybe what I was feeling didn’t have a damned thing to do with anything but familiarity.

The restaurant was more than half full, but I had the tiny bar all to myself, so I was glad that two men and a woman in the mood for libations joined me. For all the acknowledgment made, though, I might as well have been invisible. When another man moseyed in and took a seat at the end of the bar, he somehow ended up in the trio’s jovial conversation. So they weren’t blind or anti-social, after all. I deduced that it had to be my cologne.

Or, just maybe, it really WAS me. And maybe I really DIDN’T come in here for just a drink and cordial camaraderie. Maybe, deep, deep down inside, I’d come in here to make some kind of point. I certainly was open to conceding as much to myself.

And so, with very little chance of my self-examination being interrupted, I sat there and gave it all serious, honest consideration – and confirmed that I truly did have honorable intentions. I figured I’d come in here, have a drink, dig the atmosphere and thus add it to my list of places to go. For reasons that evaded me, it wasn’t working out that way.

I couldn’t ignore the irony, of course – the very notion that hundreds of years later, there’d be the issue of us getting along. For many years, I’ve heard all the reasons. Inevitably mentioned are issues of culture and the idea that any problems among us are, ultimately, the residual affect of slavery in America. Did that sinister deed, besides everything else, somehow drive a wedge between brothers under God’s sun, a division that, after all these years, still remains?

And who says that we, in particular, must get along, anyway?

But we SHOULD … shouldn’t we?

Once again alone at the bar, I was pondering it all when the bartender spoke.

“My friend, may I ask you a question?”

“Sure.”

“Why did you come here tonight?”

I explained that I’d never been here before and I thought it adventurous to try something new.

“Just a drink? Or did you also hope to meet some of our women?”

It all sounds so offensive now, but you had to be there. His words came sincerely – out of curiosity more than anything else and, I suppose, concern. I thought about his question.

Maybe, I replied, I ventured in here hoping, perhaps, to discover some measure of kinship. Or, as corny as it might sound, just a little bit of myself.

“But it’s Friday night, my friend,” he said.

“There are many other places in this city for you to be. Would you not want to be with … your own kind?”

I know – it all could have made for some compelling banter. However, after seeking conversation over the course of two beers, all I wanted to do now was leave. I tried to pay my tab, but the bartender simply smiled.

“It is on the house, my friend,” he said.

Translation: Just leave, my friend. Please.

As a Black man born and raised in America, I’ve dealt with prejudice, racism and mistrust in many configurations. Sometimes it is subtle and other times not so subtle, and you can encounter it anywhere, from anybody. Still, it never occurred to me that I’d face any of those things on a Friday night in an Ethiopian restaurant.

From the tiny bar I gathered up my pride and headed out in search of “my own kind” – and hoped that I’d know them when I saw them.

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Harlem to Addis: America’s Mega-Church Leads 150 Delegates on a Journey to Ethiopia

NEW YORK — On September 15, The Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, one of the oldest African-American institutions, announced that it’s continuing its 18-month bicentennial celebration by returning to its roots — Ethiopia.

This journey is a core component of a series of major events and activities commemorating the
church’s 200th anniversary in November 2008.

Ethiopia, which follows the Coptic calendar (seven years behind the more common Gregorian), is poised to celebrate the Millennium on Steptemer 11, 2007.

In 1808, after refusing to participate in segregated worship services at a lower Manhattan church, a group of free Africans in America and Ethiopian sea merchants formed their own church, naming it Abyssinian Baptist Church in honor of Abyssinia, the former name of Ethiopia.

In 1954, former Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Selassie I, presented Abyssinian’s pastor, Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., with the Ethiopian Coptic Cross. This cross has since become the official symbol of the church.

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Above: Emperor Haile Selassie presenting the cross
to Reverened Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., on May 27, 1954.
Photography by Marvin Smith.

“As we celebrate 200 years of Abyssinian Baptist Church as an empowering center of spiritual and community transformation, we are eager to embark upon this befitting journey to our native land of Ethiopia, especially during this time of the Ethiopian Millennium,” said Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III, pastor of Abyssinian.

“The African-American church has long been a galvanizing force in the active building of beloved
communities in the United States. We seek to further advance that cause as part of our global mission – gaining first- hand knowledge during our pilgrimage that will aid in our consideration of a viable, long-term course of action supporting the people and progress of Ethiopia.”

During the trip, Dr. Butts and members of the 150-person Abyssinian pilgrimage will assess economic, health, education and social needs of the Ethiopian people to determine how The Abyssinian Baptist Church can specifically apply its resources to encourage advancement in the country.

For more information about Abyssinian 200, visit http://www.abyssinian200.org.

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